Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is a water based racer available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Aqua Moto Racing is a franchise that originated in March 2009 when it released on iOS followed by Aqua Moto Racing 2 in 2010 on Android and iOS and Aqua Moto Racing 3D in 2013 on Nintendo 3DS, while Aqua Moto Racing Utopia and Snow Moto Racing Freedom originally released in 2016 and 2018 respectively; however there have been numerous post-launch improvements to Aqua Moto Racing Utopia. Can Aqua Moto Racing Utopia deliver the best water racer since Hydro Thunder, Splashdown and Wave Race?
Before gameplay; the player has a chance to fully customise their character including name, country or region and appearance such as male or female and selecting a preference for each facet of your character. Character customisation is followed by an optional tutorial that showcases major gameplay elements such as accelerating, performing tighter turns around buoys, how to fill the turbo gauge and engaging the turbo gauge during a race, alongside how to perform stunts in stunt challenges.
Championship has four categories including the runabout division, ski division, freestyle division and challenges. Runabout division and ski division each contains half a dozen championships involving multiple events per championship as contested by your watercraft and 7 A.I. controlled watercrafts that gradually increase in ranking difficulty from beginner to pro with events utilising varying quantities of cc classes. Only the first championship within each of the race categories is available at first, although finishing the championship on the podium unlocks the next championship. However, all three stunt championships are immediately available, alongside the Emma-Nellie Challenge were the player is tasked with scoring as many points as possible by performing stunts on their watercraft as they are driven into the air over stunt ramps. Championships culminate in a podium featuring the top three competitors celebrating, while the other five competitors wave to the crowd.
Single Event encompasses time trial, freestyle, custom race and leisure on many of the available tracks in environments, alongside selecting the quantity of laps, A.I. opponents, A.I. difficulty, allowed misses for missing buoys and weather conditions.
Track design is widely varied as there are some straight forward tracks with wide open straights and corners, while there are a few indoor arena venues, alongside further tracks featuring multiple paths that have to be learned in order to have any chance of a fast enough lap time to win the race. Every track is categorised by five attributes including wave size, narrow passages, tight corners, stunt opportunities and boost opportunities.
Watercraft design has a lot of variation as there are 7 500cc, 7 650cc, 7 750cc, 8 800cc and even more watercraft in the 1300cc and 2000cc classes. Every watercraft has a unique set of five attributes including top speed, acceleration, steering, stunt and turbo, while the colour scheme can be customised. There is only one watercraft available to choose at first, although more watercrafts are unlocked after finishing on the podium in any championship, but earning in-game currency from collecting chips during the race and finishing positions in race and stunt events is utilised to unlock the majority of watercraft.
Sense of speed and handling are consistently intertwined in Aqua Moto Racing Utopia as there are moments when engaging a turbo boost a fraction of a second before deliberately missing buoys by driving straight will increase your pace, while deciding whether to perform a stunt on a ramp or missing the ramp in favour of maximising speed. Positioning your watercraft as close to the buoy provides a grade that determines if the player receives a turbo gauge boost via a great or perfect grade, although the turbo boost can only be engaged when the turbo gauge is full, while missing the correct side of the buoy empties the turbo gauge.
There are two camera angles including a third-person and first-person perspective with the camera positioning of the third-person camera situated an ample distance from behind the watercraft in what is genuinely a well balanced camera angle. However, the first-person perspective perhaps needs refinement such as a stable camera option that would prevent the camera from repeatedly bobbing up and down on rough seas as first-person can quickly become nauseating.
As there have been no water based racers on Vita; Aqua Moto Racing Utopia would have perfectly suited the Vita and realistically filled the void of the genre on Vita in the process, especially considering Aqua Moto Racing 3D released on Nintendo 3DS in 2013, although remote play is a consolation. Aqua Moto Racing Utopia’s remote play performance retains the graphical qualities, audio and general performance from the PS4 version in single player and multiplayer. However, there is no remote play control optimisation; resulting in accelerating being mapped to the top right of the rear touch pad, while sharp turns move to the top left of the rear touch pad. Aqua Moto Racing Utopia is a playable and entertaining remote play experience, although the remote play control scheme might take some getting used to before it starts to feel comfortable.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; holding L2 to perform a sharp turn around the buoys; holding L1 while changing the direction of the right analogue stick to perform complex stunts; pressing X to engage the turbo boost; pressing O to perform an easy stunt; pressing square to change the camera angle; pressing triangle to respawn; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer the watercraft; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration occurs particularly when engaging the turbo boost, while the light bar remains red at all times when perhaps it could have produced the colour representing the design of your watercraft, although there is no touch pad support that could have provided an alternative method to performing stunts.
Graphically, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia has amazing rippling water and reflective water effects that combine in perfect working harmony with beautiful trackside environments, while the more tranquil seas depict an entire corral on the seabed and multiple forms of sea life to a sensational quality, alongside excellent watercraft and driver animations when steering around buoys and performing stunts.
Aqua Moto Racing Utopia’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, championship mode menus, single event mode menus, split-screen multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, customisation menus, options menus and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds showcase a continuous panning around the calm seas in the circumference of a tropical island that is the location for one of the races.
A male or female voice-over introduces the event and informs the player on when their turbo gauge is full. Sound effects include your watercraft and nearby watercrafts accelerating and engaging the turbo boost, watercrafts colliding with each other, water splashing, collecting chips, successfully navigating buoys and ambient sound effects such as dolphins jumping out and back into the water, alongside a mixture of arcade and tranquil music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced the voice-over or engaging the turbo boost.
The trophy list includes 17 trophies with 3 bronze trophies, 4 silver trophies, 9 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Aqua Moto Racing License bronze trophy for completing the tutorial and the Big Jump silver trophy for jumping over 40m. Harder trophies include the Runabout Master gold trophy and the Ski Master gold trophy for winning every runabout championship and ski championship respectively; the Time Crusher gold trophy for winning gold medals in time trial mode on every track; the Score Crusher gold trophy for winning gold medals in every freestyle event; and the Leader gold trophy for passing every buoy in first place and winning a championship race. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels in custom race mode including easy, medium and hard. Despite the chosen difficulty level in custom race mode; A.I. controlled watercraft in any mode including championships will attempt to barge your watercraft out of the way in order to reach the inside line of the next buoy first and sometimes even deliberately miss the buoy to gain track position. Meanwhile, rougher waters make your approach to each buoy rather tough, alongside needing to be aware of shortcuts on tracks to maximise the chance of winning races on a far more regular basis.
Local competitive split-screen multiplayer allows two to four players to compete in custom race, party games, freestyle and leisure modes. Party games are very entertaining as they include Aqua Moto Hockey that tasks players to score more goals than the opposition in a three minutes match by guiding the hockey puck into the opposition’s goal, while Keep the Flag is a combination of capture the flag and tag; King of the Hill challenges players to remain in an ever increasingly smaller circle to gain more points by pushing the opposition’s watercraft out of the circle; and Duckling Mama is a fresh alternative on Snake with the aim being to collect as many ducks as possible without any opposing watercraft driving into any of them. However, there are only two A.I. controlled watercraft when two players are competing rather than the 7 A.I. controlled watercraft in single player, while rain weather conditions are not available in split-screen multiplayer and only the first player can select the watercraft, but no player can choose a specific colour for their watercraft and the only character customisation is to select a male or female character. Meanwhile, online multiplayer supports 2 to 8 players.
Aqua Moto Racing Utopia’s replayability stems from a huge career mode including a range of championships, customisable single events, split-screen multiplayer for two to four players and online multiplayer that collectively will have players returning for dozens of hours.
• Title: Aqua Moto Racing Utopia
• Developer: Zordix
• Publisher: Zordix
• System: PS4
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Split-Screen Multiplayer)/2-8 (Online Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 12.68GB (Version 1.09)